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San Francisco Airport First to Sell Carbon Offsets

Travelers passing through San Francisco International Airport (SFO) can now offset the carbon output of their flights at kiosks around the airport. SFO’s Climate Passport offsets are purchased at touch screen kiosks that calculate the carbon footprint and corresponding offset amount of a person’s flight.

Climate Passport offsets fund a reforestation project in Mendocino Country and a biofuels initiative in the Bay Area.

This is an interesting move for two reasons. For starters, placing these kiosks in the airport draws a very short and clear line between travel and pollution, one the traveler can’t really ignore. Air travel on the whole is not eco-friendly, and travelers will be forced to face this fact, if only briefly, when they pass one of these kiosks. Whether or not this will make any significant impact on either individuals or the collective traveling public is anyone’s guess, but it nevertheless represents a new type of in-your-face messaging.

Secondly, it’s not clear that carbon offsets do all that much to actually combat the pollution caused by air travel, even though most offset projects, and these in particular, have undeniable ecological value. Replenishing a heavily logged forest in Mendocino Country is a worthwhile endeavor, but does it put a physical dent in the cross-country carbon trail left by your plane?

For me, this question doesn’t really matter. Reforesting a devastated landscape is a necessary task whether it evens out my pollution or not, and I’m happy to help. But what about you? If you happened upon a kiosk in the airport that told you a mere $7 was required to offset your polluting ways, would you pay it?

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